House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Thursday released a tightened set of guidelines over what potential witnesses can be called in the impeachment hearings, saying Republicans must justify their relevance according to a three-point criteria.
The California Democrat, in a letter to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the committee, formally asked for the GOP members’ requests for witnesses they would like to call for next week’s public hearings.
The narrowed-scope of the questions, first obtained by Politico, are:
• Did the president request that a foreign leader and government initiate investigations to benefit the president’s personal political interests in the United States, including an investigation related to the president’s political rival and potential opponent in the 2020 US presidential election?
• Did the president — directly or through agents — seek to use the power of the Office of the President and other instruments of the federal government in other ways to apply pressure on the head of state and government of Ukraine to advance the president’s personal political interests, including by leveraging an Oval Office meeting desired by the president of Ukraine or by withholding US military assistance to Ukraine?
• Did the president and his administration seek to obstruct, suppress or cover up information to conceal from the Congress and the American people evidence about the president’s actions and conduct?
Republicans had said they wanted to call a range of witnesses, possibly including Biden’s son Hunter, who scored a $50,000-a-month gig on the board of the Ukrainian energy giant Burisma while his dad was the veep.
But the resolution passed by the House last week specifically says that Schiff would have the final say over which witnesses the GOP could call, with Democrats saying they wanted to prevent sideshows and grandstanding, while the Republicans want to be able to rebut key witnesses.
If Schiff were to veto any of the GOP’s witnesses, the matter would go to a vote before the full committee, which is controlled by the Democrats.
Adding to the potential combustibility of the proceedings is the GOP’s decision to add Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, an outspoken Trump defender, to the Intel panel.
The probe was sparked by a whistleblower’s report that Trump had asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for a ”favor” — investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election — at a time he was withholding nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine, locked in a battle with Russian-backed separatists.
Jordan said Thursday he doesn’t know the identity of the whistleblower but that Schiff should call the person to testify.
“We’ll see if he gives us any of our witnesses,” Jordan said, declining to identify others that GOP lawmakers intend to request.
A senior Republican source Thursday told the Los Angeles Times that Jordan’s temporary addition to the committee would be meant as a complement to Nunes.
Some Republicans have privately questioned whether Nunes is prepared for the role, the source said, but the person said the move would be intended to create the best team to defend Trump, and not meant as a criticism of Nunes.
with Post wires
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